Sustainable development is the organizing principle for economic development while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services on which the economy and society depend. The desired result is a state of society where living conditions and resources are used to continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural system. Sustainable development can be defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability goals, such as the current UN-level Sustainable Development Goals, address the global challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.
While the modern concept of sustainable development is yet derived mostly from the 1987 Brundtland Report, it is also rooted in earlier ideas about sustainable forest management and twentieth-century environmental concerns. As the concept of sustainable development developed, it has shifted its focus more towards the economic development, social development and environmental protection for future generations. It has been suggested that the term 'sustainability' should be viewed as humanity's target goal of human-ecosystem equilibrium, while 'sustainable development' refers to the holistic approach and temporal processes that lead us to the endpoint of sustainability". Modern economies are endeavouring to reconcile ambitious economic development and obligations of preserving natural resources and ecosystems, as the two are usually seen as of conflicting nature. Instead of holding climate change commitments and other sustainability measures as a remedy to economic development, turning and leveraging them into market opportunities will do greater good. The economic development brought by such organized principles and practices in an economy is called Managed Sustainable Development (MSD).
The concept of sustainable development has been, and still is, subject to criticism, including the question of what is to be sustained in sustainable development. It has been argued that there is no such thing as a sustainable use of a non-renewable resource, since any positive rate of exploitation will eventually lead to the exhaustion of earth's finite stock;:13 this perspective renders the Industrial Revolution as a whole unsustainable.:20f:61–67:22f It has also been argued that the meaning of the concept has opportunistically been stretched from 'conservation management' to 'economic development', and that the Brundtland Report promoted nothing but a business as usual strategy for world development, with an ambiguous and insubstantial concept attached as a public relations slogan. (see below).:48–54:94–99